From the time #MeToo movement started, I have wondered, what if a family member of mine was accused of sexually harassing a woman? What would be my position? How would I react? Will I be able to speak in public about it? What will be the repercussions in my life?
Well I did not have to wonder too long. A newcomer actor who worked in my husband Rajesh Touchriver’s under-production bi-lingual Odiya/telugu film ‘Patnagarh’, accused him of ‘mental harassment’, ‘gender discrimination’ and making ‘sexist remarks’. While the film is produced by Sridhar Martha and has three co-producers Manoj Mishra, Atul Kulkarni and me, for reasons best known to this aggrieved person she only mentions me apart from Rajesh Touchriver (she also mentions another actor in the video). I am sure she must be having a justifiable reason for mentioning me in the #MeToo post & thereafter a video, even though I visited the location only twice while the others were there throughout.
Since I was fully aware of the day-today happenings on the sets and all the challenges related to the production right from the start, at least in this case I did not have any moral or ethical dilemma on what my position should be, I knew the complete truth!
But is it distressing? Yes it is!
It is distressing to see, colleagues in my sector posting the news article of this case with statements such as ‘Living one’s politics is tougher when one has to confront it at home, isn’t it?
It was also distressing to see, people(who are not even friends on Fb with the aggrieved person) who were given significant roles in Rajesh’s films sharing the Fb post of the aggrieved person (now one was wondering what was this person’s problem? when even after 1 year after the movie was produced she has not mentioned anything, she has even joined two film festivals with us where the movie was nominated)…you actually start becoming paranoid!
It was painful to see friends feeling compelled to ‘lash out’ but unable to do so for the fear of public perception.
It was also very distressing to answer friends and relatives who were anguished to see Rajesh’s name appearing in all kinds of shows on television including FIR as an accused.
What should be my position? If I speak, it will be ‘manipulation of victimhood’ (this is what one gentleman accused me of) and if I don’t it will be ‘ look at her, she was so articulate about the #MeToo, now since it is her husband, she is keeping quite’.
I have been a great supporter of #MeToo movement, as I think it gave platform for at least one class of women to speak up. But I was always of the opinion that just #MeToo has no relevance(please refer to all my tweets in the last few months). This should be followed by #MeTooWillReport. In the absence of reporting it is just an allegation…an accusation and sometimes it has the potential to be misused.
As much as the aggrieved person has the right to dignity and justice, so does the alleged person has the right to clear his name.
While the rich & famous today may step down from a current position they are holding under duress and pressure, the large number of #MeToo will continue at homes/schools/colleges/offices/public places…for there is no deterrence...
Yes when a near & dear one is accused ‘fairly or unfairly’ it hurts…and when somebody uses it to settle scores it hurts even further…but the truth gives you confidence and the trust gives you strength.
On my part, I will continue to fight to ‘break the silence’, I will stand by the ‘truth’ and I will do everything under the sun in my power to support the ‘genuine victims’.